BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Community leaders pleaded for peaceful vigils, while police prepared for possible protests Wednesday afternoon, a day after an officer with one year on the force fatally shot a teenager who police said was driving a stolen vehicle.
Imam Lyle Hassan Jones, speaking for “a community somewhat outraged,” called for Bridgeport to come together and let State Police investigate the actions of the police officers involved as well as the teen and his wounded passenger, identified as 21-year-old Julian Fyffe.
None of the officers or the driver who died have been publicly identified.
“They committed a crime. They stole a car,” Jones said at a Wednesday press conference. “Our young people have reckless behavior, and it’s youthful folly. We don’t think they should lose their lives.”
Meanwhile, police prepared barricades outside the Walgreens at the busy intersection of Fairfield and Park avenues, where some planned to gather for a prayer vigil they hoped would not turn violent Wednesday evening.
Some at the press conference said they'd been contacted by the Black Lives Matter movement and others from as far away as New York and New Jersey who might turn out in Bridgeport.
“We don’t want another Ferguson,” said Bridgeport activist Wanda Simmons, referring to the weeks of unrest after the fatal shooting of an teen by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo.
Some questioned why the body of the young man was left uncovered on the ground for six to seven hours after the 5 p.m. Tuesday shooting.
Police Chief AJ Perez said the driver had been pulled from the vehicle, handcuffed and placed on the ground, while officers tended to the passenger who was shot in the shoulder and transported to Bridgeport Hospital.
When it was determined the driver had died, police were bound by protocol to leave his body where it was, uncovered so as not to damage evidence, until the State Police and medical examiner’s representatives could attend to it, Perez said.
“We have shields, and we shielded the body,” he said. “It’s not a perfect system.”
While supporting his police department, Mayor Joe Ganim said it “bothered” him that “the body of a deceased young person, someone’s child” was lying on a public street for that long.
“It’s unacceptable from a community perspective,” he said.
Perez and detectives from the Western District Major Crime Unit on Wednesday released some details of Tuesday’s incident.
The chief said undercover units on Park Avenue first noticed the stolen vehicle and called for backup. They got behind it as it pulled the wrong way onto one-way Fairfield Avenue and into the Walgreens lot, striking several vehicles, State Police said.
The car then sped onto Fairfield Avenue, Perez said.
Police boxed in the car and two officers got out to try to get the vehicle’s driver and passenger out, he said.
As the officers approached the car, the driver accelerated in reverse and struck at least one Bridgeport police officer, State Police said.
In the scuffle, one officer was nearly pulled under the vehicle, Perez said.
Fearing for his or her life, one of the officers fired at least one round, striking both the driver and passenger, Perez said.
The passenger was evaluated for non-life-threatening injuries, and two police officers were transported to St. Vincent’s Medical Center with minor injuries.
Perez confirmed the involved officer, whom he said has been on the force about a year, has been sent home for 48 hours with medical and psychological assistance made available, if necessary.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will conduct an autopsy and determine the cause and manner of death.
Dawn Spearman, founder of You Are Not Alone (YANA), which offers emotional and spiritual support for those facing such tragedies, said her group would hold a candlelight vigil at the site Wednesday evening “to support that baby who was lost.”
She called on others to remain peaceful but to demand changes for the dignity of victims and their families.
“That will be the last body that will lay (in the street),” she said.
Witnesses and anyone with any information are asked to text TIP711 and any information to 274637. All texts will remain confidential.